So here I am closing in on the end of January. But before I move forward I do want to show you one look back -- as I face the eternal dilemma. It's important, y'all.

Here is the question that everyone should be lucky enough to face. When contemplating peanut brittle, do you stand up for the pulled brittle (a la Nano) or are you a poured brittle fan (Susan, we revere your name)?

Now, some of you may wonder, because brittle is good. Who cares beyond this? And I am going to say that my own political stance is always toward compromise and peace and ways we all agree. So yes. Plus -- I have never encountered bad peanut brittle.

But I do feel the need to address the eternal debate.


There is a vocal Nano faction that tells me:

1. Nano (some may remember her as Sadie Forsythe, but you can call her Nano.)

2. Sadie's pulled brittle is light and airy, and one doesn't ever have to worry about breaking a tooth.

3. Coleen has mastered her grandmother's top-secret recipe and technique, so that the brittle she produces is Sadie-esque in every good way.

3. The left-over delicious sugary bits are so awesome on ice cream or stirred into coffee, . . .

4. Nano.


But my poured brittle friends are also quite vocal, and they make an excellent point or two.

1. Poured brittle means everyone keeps their fingerprints -- not an insignificant consideration. Have you pulled peanut brittle, people? It will hurt you. Permanently.

2. My girl Susan has mastered the poured brittle that will not break your teeth. I do believe that most of us who think about poured brittle are thinking about a brittle that lacks the airy gorgeousness of Susan's brittle.

3. Susan's brittle = [ angelic choirs? orgasmic sugar rush? you will just have to take my word for it. ]


So for me it comes down to:



Not even a vote.

This is really good pie, y'all


So my sister makes this great chocolate chess pie.  She's a good sharer, so the sunny girl and I know how to make it now, too.

One question that I have not really found a satisfactory answer to is, "Chocolate chess pie?  WTF?"
Here's what Linda Stradley, of the website What's Cooking America, says about the origin of the name:
Chess pies are a Southern specialty; they have a simple filling of eggs, sugar, butter, and perhaps a small amount of flour. Some recipes include cornmeal and others are made with vinegar. Flavorings, such as vanilla, lemon juice, or chocolate are also added to vary the basic recipe. [ . . . ] The origin of the name is uncertain, but there are plenty of guesses and a bit of folklore surrounding the name. One explanation suggests that the word is “chest,” pronounced with a drawl and used to describe these pies baked with so much sugar they could be stored in a pie chest rather than refrigerated. Another [probably untrue] story is about the plantation cook who was asked what she was baking that smelled so great - “Jes’ pie” was her answer. Some people theorize that since the English lemon curd pie filling is very close to lemon chess pie, and they believe the word “chess” is an Americanization of the English word “cheese,” referring to curd pie.
So, yeah.  Linda Stradley doesn't really know, either.

Anyway -- here's how you make it:

The ingredient list for the filling is pretty simple:  sugar, eggs, butter, evaporated milk, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  You see in my photo that I use a ready-to-bake pie crust.  If you make fabulous pie crust that everyone drools over, then by all means -- knock yourself out.  Anyone who might have an expectation that I am the kind of person who makes her own pie crust has not been paying attention.

The preparation of the filling is pretty darned simple, too.  Just put all the filling ingredients into a bowl and mix at high speed for about two minutes.

Pour the filling into the waiting pie crust.


Crimp the edges of the crust in a way that suits your fancy.  My friend Saskia can make a pie crust edge look like it's been braided or something.

I cannot.

You don't pre-bake the crust, or prick it with a fork, or say any magic words over it.

Well, OK.  If you want to say some magic words -- again, knock yourself out.

I use a pie ring to protect the edges of my pie crust from getting overcooked.  My pie ring makes me feel like I am a real cook, even though I'm really a total poseur.  Don't tell anyone.

If you are worried that your crust will get overdone, you can protect it by wrapping aluminum . . . aluminium?  You can just wrap some tin foil around your pie plate.

After you bake it it will look like this, and it will make your whole house smell like a chocolate factory.


The sunny girl made some whipped cream for us to have with our pie.  You'll have to get that recipe from her.

+ + + + +

Here's the nitty-gritty:



Unbaked pie crust (bottom only) 
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
5 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 5-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl for two-ish minutes, and pour them into the unbaked pie crust.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 50 minutes.  The pie is done when it looks "set" like a souffle.  You can serve it plain, or with whipped cream, or with Cool Whip, or with ice cream, or . . . .

Catching up: the Louisiana way

Last month the husband and I went to an authentic Louisiana "Crawfish Boil" -- which, as you can see, is exactly what it sounds like, right down to the Louisiana-brewed beer. Our host boiled up a mess of crawfish along with some sausage, ears of corn, and potatoes. When they were ready, he dumped the whole shebang out on a table covered with brown paper, and told us all to dig in. As a concession to our sissified Eastern sensibilities, he did provide paper plates, although he insisted they were unnecessary.

Some random urchin insisted that I get a close-up of this critter -- he said he felt like he was eating an alien. I think he may be right -- but they're delicious!

A star is born . . . ?

So the tall boy will be making his film debut soon -- although I'm sorry to tell you that you will have a hard time finding the movie at your local AMC theaters.

These four high school pals came over to film him for a class project, and proceeded to boss him around our kitchen, with a Flip camera capturing the glamour.

I had a hard time telling what approach the Scorcese wannabes were using, as they directed him to "make a sandwich!" Being the ever-vigilant mom, I asked them if they were speaking in some sort of film school code -- because it sure sounded like "make a sandwich" could go in a lot of different directions, and some of them could get him kicked out of school.

They just looked at me with four pairs of limpid eyes and said, "Oh no! We just want him to make a sandwich!"

"Are we talking PBJ here, or something a little more risque?" was my next question.

"Well -- we will get extra credit if he makes a creative sandwich . . . " answered Sophia Coppola.

After examining all the contents of our refrigerator, he decided to make a Ramen sandwich -- which sounded nasty to me, but cracked the future Golden Globe winners up.

Then the bossy part started: "Get out a pot! Don't waste the water! Get a sponge -- you're making a mess on the stove!"

But they got distracted by Annie the Wonder Cat -- talk about a film star! -- and left the tall boy standing in the kitchen with a package of noodles, still trying to find his character's motivation.

Creative strife broke out between the actor and his directors as they discussed the genre and themes of the film. The tall boy was headed toward some sort of existential approach -- something like "Solitude and the Sandwich -- a Reverie." But it seemed the directors had another vision for the film's message, because the two who were not completely mesmerized by the cat told him, "OK, now dance."

Here is how the tall boy responds to being told to dance. It's the high school equivalent of stomping off to his trailer in a huff, calling for his agent.

The director tapped her foot patiently, thinking she could wait him out.

But she doesn't know from foot-tapping. The tall boy Does. Not. Dance.

Luckily Ramen only takes three minutes to prepare, and the drama subsided as the tall boy began to put the actual sandwich together. The next crisis arose when they said, "OK, now take a bite."

The tall boy howled with laughter. "Do you really expect me to eat a Ramen sandwich?" he choked, and I do not kid when I say these girls were not laughing at all.

"The whole point is that someone has got to eat the sandwich, tall boy." What kind of class are they taking??

"Hello, sunny girl! How about a delicious Ramen sandwich?!"

Hmm . . . . "Not bad!" she said brightly. Annie was skeptical.

I just love the sunny girl -- and now these high school film students do, too!

How 'bout that Ramen sandwich -- with a side of nail polish?!? The Pioneer Woman has nothing on my tall boy!